For the second time this offseason, we’re debating who owns the NFL’s official single-season record. First, it was a discussion over one of Michael Strahan’s sacks, not even involving Brett Favre’s dive to give him the record. Now, Jared Allen has thrown his hat into the ring, believing the NFL robbed him of what would still be the true and sole official record.

Joining Up and Adams Tuesday, Allen thinks he should’ve finished the 2011 season with 23, not 22. He points to the NFL taking away a sack on Aaron Rodgers, crediting it as a team sack instead of giving it to Allen.

“I had 23 that year,” Allen told host Kay Adams. “They took a sack from me. Monday Night Football, Aaron Rodgers. They called it a muff on Wednesday. They gave it a team sack versus giving it to me. I’m on the team, so I should get a half-sack. I tackled the man.”

As the show did, and as we’ll do here, let’s go to the tape. Week 10, first quarter. Rodgers takes the shotgun snap, begins rolling left, fumbles the football, lands on top, and Allen tackles him to make sure Rodgers can’t make a play out of it.

As noted by broadcaster Mike Tirico, the stats crew initially awarded Allen a sack. At that point, he had 13.5 and would finish the game with another, bumping him to 14.5 through his first nine games. He cooled down and entered the regular season finale with 18.5 but dominated the Chicago Bears in Week 17, recording 3.5 takedowns of QB Josh McCown. That gave him 22 on the season.

So what happened?

As Allen points out, per NFL rules, on muffed snaps and fumbles, individual defenders won’t be credited with the sack. Instead, it will be awarded to the defense as a whole. Get out your handy NFL statistician guide, scroll to Page 18, and it outlines the carve-out.

“If the potential passer fumbles on his own prior to any such contact, no sack is credited to any individual defensive player unless he recovers his own fumble and attempts to advance or pass the ball. However, credit the defensive team with a sack. The number of defensive sacks should be equal to the number of offensive sacks.”

That’s exactly what happened here. Rodgers fumbled on his own accord. And there’s no case to be made that he recovered and attempted to advance or pass the football. He made an attempt to do so, unable to catch the ball on its initial bounce, but by the time he had officially recovered the ball, Allen had him by the legs and taken Rodgers to the ground. Textbook definition of a team sack, not an individual one.

“He clearly made a football move. That’s a fumble, that’s not a muff,” Allen told Adams, who agreed the sack should’ve been credited to him.

But the rulebook doesn’t separate fumble from muff. It specifically mentions a fumble without defensive contact and no recovery/attempt to advance or throw goes down as a team sack. The league made the right call. That kept Allen’s number at 22, one shy of Strahan’s mark that T.J. Watt would tie in 2021.

It’s a similar issue Watt faced in his regular-season finale, losing out on a sack after the NFL ruled Baltimore Ravens QB Tyler Huntley muffed a snap.

Watt has a far better case than Allen. Here, Huntley picks the ball up and begins to run with it, clearly attempting to advance the football. The issue seems to center around the play being listed as an aborted snap, rendering it ineligible for a pass. The rule offers a way for a sack in these moments, the guide noting:

“If the player who recovers the fumble makes an apparent attempt to pass and is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, score the play as a sack, not an aborted play.”

But Huntley made no attempt to pass. He attempted to run. That gave Watt a tackle for loss and a forced fumble, but not the sack. In both cases, the NFL scored them correctly. Watt would sack Huntley later in the game to tie the record.

As I always do anytime sack records come up, the unofficial record is none of the above. That remains with Detroit Lions DT Al “Bubba” Baker and the 23 he notched as a rookie in 1978, four years before the NFL acknowledged sacks as “official.”

Strahan and Allen have long retired. Watt remains active, looking to break all the records: official, unofficial, and ones argued by the players, needing 23.5 sacks to take sole possession of first place without any asterisk or story.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here